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Iraq militias ‘enlisting children’ for Mosul push

Human Rights Watch cites testimony from witnesses and relatives, that two tribal militias in the Kurdish region of Iraq recruited children

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An International human rights group says Iraqi militias are recruiting children from camps for civilians displaced by conflict ahead of the long-awaited operation to retake militant-held Mosul.

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, citing testimony from witnesses and relatives, that two tribal militias in the Kurdish region of Iraq recruited children from a camp south of Irbil and drove them away to a town near Mosul.

The group said the recruits are intended to reinforce frontline positions in Nineveh province, where Mosul is located.

Iraq’s prime minister has pledged that Mosul will be retaken from ISIS this year. After a string of territorial defeats over the past year, Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, is the last major urban territory ISIS holds in the country.

“The recruitment of children as fighters for the Mosul operation should be a warning sign for the Iraqi government,” said Bill Van Esveld, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government and its foreign allies need to take action now, or children are going to be fighting on both sides in Mosul.”

Human Rights Watch has documented that ISIS has extensively recruited and deployed children in its forces.